Malazar's Mansion


Round 3: Design an encounter


This domed building is constructed of large sandstone blocks mortared together into a two-story mansion with two front-facing windows, black drapes drawn closed. Almost every inch of the building has been carved with spiraling patterns resembling all manner of natural phenomena, such as menacing clouds, flaming trees and crashing waves. The carvings are well-kept; every edge is sharp and every line clean, as if they were just carved yesterday. The dome atop the building appears to be made of black, opaque glass. Two small alleys flank the building, each leading to an iron gate with flashes of greenery and bright flowers visible beyond.

Ignus Malazar, a gnomish architect and wizard who migrated from Jalmeray decades ago, owns this mansion in the Katapeshi city of Solku. Malazar has spent much of his life studying magical building techniques, and his mansion is his masterpiece. The front door of the home faces south, is made of expensive foreign wood banded in iron and is carved to match the design of the stone around it (hardness 10, 30 hp, break DC 25). The door is locked with a superior lock (DC 40). The rear of the building faces the rear of several less expensive homes, and there is a 5 ft wide alley on either side of the building leading to an enclosed garden (A1). The western gate to the garden is locked with a simple lock (DC 20), and the eastern gate hangs ajar.

-Plot hook: Malazar has not been seen in over a week, and a friend of his asks the PCs to search him out, as the paladins of the Dawn Vigil have more pressing matters to attend to.

Unless otherwise specified, rooms in the home contain no creatures and only mundane, though high-quality, household items.

A1. Garden (CR 4)
==========

Lush green plants and colorful flowers of many shapes and sizes fill this small, well-tended garden. To the south, two gates lead to alleyways on either side of the Malazar home. A path winds through the garden leading from each of the gates up to a rear entrance.

This garden was kept by Malazar as he sought out foreign plants that struck his fancy to be planted within. There is a cobblestone path through the planted foliage leading from each of the two alley gates to the home’s entrance to the south.

A double door into the mansion from this garden is secured with a good lock (DC 30). A hidden key can be found with a DC 20 Perception check. Just in front of the door, a pair of mutated pesh cacti exude pesh into the air, causing creatures that pass between them to save against the effects of the drug (Gamemastery Guide, pg. 237). PCs can make a DC 24 Perception check to notice the cloud of pesh in the air around the two cacti.

Creatures:

Near the back door to the home, Malazar has accidentally created a strange yet beautiful creature through cross-pollination of pesh cacti with various fungi. Aldria, a fungal nightflower, acts as his gardener when he can’t be bothered to tend the garden himself. She has also taken it upon herself to defend his home from intruders. She hides among the mutated pesh cacti, revealing herself when the PCs approach within 15 feet.

Aldria CR 3
XP 800
Female fungal nightflower (R2, B4 pg. 116)
CN Medium plant (augmented fey)
hp 30 (4d8+12)

Aldria starts with an unfriendly attitude and demands to know why the PCs have come. If made friendly, she reveals that Malazar hasn’t come out to visit her in almost a week. She is more concerned about the garden than Malazar himself, so she has no interest in entering the mansion, but will point out the hidden key to the rear entrance if made helpful.

A2. Entry (CR 2)
==========

Several doors line the walls of this entryway, which doubles as an entertaining area for guests. Portraits on the wall depict several gnomish figures whose family resemblance is plain.

Malazar entertained guests in this room, and the portraits depict his relatives going back at least three generations. The door to the northwest stair is locked with a good lock (DC 30) and attempting to open the door without the key will trigger an acid arrow trap, while the other doors are unsecured.

Acid Arrow Trap (CRB pg. 420) CR 2
Type magic; Perception DC 27; Disable Device DC 27
------Effects------
Trigger touch; Reset none; Bypass lock;
Effect spell effect (acid arrow, CL 3, Atk +2 ranged touch, 2d4 acid damage for 2 rounds)

B3. Bathing Suite (CR 3)
==========

This lavish bathing room features a soaking tub filled with steaming water, as well as several smaller “stalls” for washing oneself before entering the soaking tub. The dome above, though opaque from outside, allows light to filter through and lends the room a soft glow.

Malazar was fond of indulgence, and this washroom is a testament to that fact. The furnishings are expensive and designed to be soothing to the eyes. The room is quite steamy from the hot water filling the soaking tub (creatures more than 5 feet away are treated as having concealment).

Creatures:

Lintral, a jackalwere and the previous ruler of the Soulshrieker gnoll tribe, occupies this room along with four of his attendants. Though he still rules his tribe in name, he now resentfully answers to Jaena, who bested him in single combat. Unless an extreme racket was raised when the PCs entered the mansion, Lintral remains distracted by his attendants’ doting, and the PCs will likely get a surprise round against them. Lintral’s battleaxe is always within his reach, and he retrieves it as part of his Move action to stand from the tub on the first round of combat. A small key is tied to the hilt of his axe, which unlocks the door to the basement in area A2.

Lintral CR 3
XP 800
Male advanced jackalwere (B3 pg. 154, B1 pg. 294)
hp 28
Morale If Lintral is reduced to 10 hp or less, he will abandon his attendants and attempt to flee downstairs to warn Jaena of the intruders.

Female gnolls (4) CR 1
XP 400 each
hp 11 each (B1 pg. 155)
Melee dagger

C1. Basement Library (CR 5)
==========

This dark yet comfortable space is filled with shelves of tomes and scrolls, though it looks like many of them have been riffled through recently. A small desk toward the south of the room holds stacks of documents that have toppled under their own weight. The body of a corpulent gnomish man in expensive robes lies near the overturned bookshelves to the east, giving off the scent of rotting flesh masked poorly by expensive perfumes. Behind him, a hole in the sandstone wall leads into a dark tunnel.

Ignus Malazar’s body lies here, killed by Jaena in her pursuit of powerful magic to use against the people of Solku. A DC 14 Heal check reveals a dagger wound in his abdomen. He wears little other than his robes, but the kaftan wrapped around his head is enchanted to resist heat (Dark Markets pg. 3), and is stitched with the holy symbol of Nethys.

Creatures:

The beautiful huldra named Jaena has spent days in this basement library, poring over tomes and leaving Lintral to guard the house above. Her faithful pet dhabba, Stingtail, was won from Lintral when she bested him to gain control of his tribe. Jaena was kept as a plaything by pirates on the open sea for years before being sold to Katapeshi slavers. She was able to charm a young prince into buying her freedom here in Solku, but the years of torture show on her skin in the form of hundreds of scars (which she attempts to hide with a flowing dress and veil across her face), and this torture has left her bitter toward all of society.

Jaena CR 4
XP 1200
Female huldra (B4 pg. 151)
CE Medium fey
hp 38 (B4 pg. 151)
During Combat Jaena hides among the bookshelves and attempts to use charm person on the strongest-looking PC, demanding he or she defend her against the others. She is also carrying a bag of Ironmorph Dust (R1) which she can use to target an arcane caster, or on her own dress (giving it the statistics of chainmail) if forced into melee. Morale If Jaena is reduced to less than 10 hp, she will attempt to flee through the tunnel in the eastern wall and return to rally the Soulshrieker tribe for an attack on Solku.

Stingtail (dire dhabba [Dark Markets pg. 60]) CR 3
XP 800
Variant dire hyena (B1 pg. 179)
hp 26
Melee bite +6 (2d6+6 plus poison and trip) and sting +1 (1d6+3)
Poison- Injury; save Fort DC 13; frequency 1/round for 6 rounds; effect nauseated 1 round, 1d4 Dex; cure 1 save.
Morale Stingtail will fight as long as Jaena does, but will follow his master if she chooses to flee.

Liberty's Edge Digital Products Assistant

Hi! I’m Crystal and I’m one of your judges this round. I’ll be looking at your encounter not just as a GM and writer, but also as a professional cartographer, to see how much fun it would be to run and if the map helps or hinders the experience. For a little background, I’ve been writing for RPGs since the late 90’s, and am the author of The Harrowing and Pathfinder Adventure Path #80: Empty Graves, and I try to apply the standards of pitch, challenge, fun, and map design to my own writing just as I’m applying them here.

Criteria Details:

Pitch
Is the idea clear, evocation, and easy to sit down and run without a lot of extra prep time. If it needs extra prep time, is it worth it? This also includes whether or not the formatting adheres to Paizo’s standards.

Challenge
Is the challenge level-appropriate? Does the presumed challenge players face match up with the numerical CR? If not, is there a good reason why not?

Fun
Is the encounter going to be memorable, or is this just a speed bump on the way to the treasure room?

Map Design
The map doesn’t need to be vitally important to an encounter, but it should never, ever ruin an encounter. And if the map or environmental elements can add to the flavor of an encounter, or give players more options, all the better.

Pitch
The encounter is actually a mini dungeon-crawl with four encounters, which doesn’t bother me all that much but it doesn’t leave a lot of room to flesh out any single encounter, and the prerequisite Round 2 monsters seems tacked on as an afterthought that the PCs will only interact with if they go in through the back door and even then will probably only have a short conversation with (which seems weird for a vampiric cactus). The introductory text doesn’t really explain what’s going on beyond “find this missing gnome,” and as a GM I want to have a basic idea what the set-up is before getting into crunchy details. And since the dhabba isn’t a PRD monster, its complete statblock needs to be included in the encounter.

Challenge
Aldria isn’t really hostile and combat with her in unlikely, so the Cr for her encounter should be lower unless she can offer more information or present some other challenge for the PCs.
The bathings suite is listed as CR 3, but by the number’s it’s halfway between a CR 5 and CR 6. Since they’re soaking in the bath not expecting combat, it’s unlikely Lintral or his gnolls have their listed armor or weapons, but the only change mentioned on their quick statblocks is that the gnolls carry daggers. If you’re lowering the encounter CR because they don’t have equipment, 1) you need to include that revised stat information in the statblock, and 2) you need to call out that the CR is being reduced by their reduced combat readiness. Depriving them of armor and downgrading their weapons would likely knock them down each creature down one step in CR, resulting in a CR 2 and three CR ½, which still adds up to a CR 4 encounter.

Fun
There’s some interesting flavor in the location background, but only the nightflower and acid arrow trap hint at the mansion being a magnum opus of magical construction techniques. Even the huldra isn’t taking advantage of any inherently magical or awesome aspect of the mansion; she’s just looting it for weapons. No particular encounter stands out.

Map Design
Again, nothing about this says “mastery of magical building techniques.” It’s a very mundane house with a large, circular bathroom. I have no idea what location C; I assume it’s a tunnel, why why does it exist? Where does it go? Who made it? How do PCs find it, since there’s an inexplicable huge bookcase in front of it?

I do not recommend this encounter for advancement.

Cartographer

Decent map reference, everything is fairly easy to read. The design could be more exciting. Some things may not be necessary or make sense at first.

I do not recommend this encounter for advancement.

Paizo Employee Developer , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

Hey Tyler, congratulations on making it to the top 16.

I am the developer of Pathfinder Society Organized Play, which means I see lots of short adventures and self-contained encounters over the course of a year. It’s a developer’s job to read through, revise, and fact-check pretty much everything, so it’s tough to boil down what I’m looking for into a couple of clever headers. Essentially, I’m approaching this round like I would a scenario turnover, which involves marking up a copy of your encounter and providing feedback on what you did and how you might improve—my teaching experience in action.

My Style:
Since tone is a little hard to express while in this medium, I encourage you to read my comments in a friendly way; it’s how I intend them. As I warn many freelancers, I ask the question “why” a lot. Sometimes I do this because I am legitimately confused. Sometimes I do this to get the freelancer thinking in a certain way. Sometimes I know what the answer is, but I want to illustrate that there’s not enough information for the GM to understand what’s going on.

That said, this is a tough round, for we’re going from 16 to four contestants.


My Criteria:

Setting: Does your encounter fit in Golarion? Is it an urban encounter? Is the CR appropriate for the setting and the encounter? Is it clear how a GM might use this encounter?
NPCs and Creatures: How well did you incorporate the Round 2 creature into your encounter? Does it feel like a natural fit, or was it forced? Does the creature have a chance to shine? Do your NPCs fit in the location? Do their motives make sense? Is there an opportunity for roleplaying (appreciated but not essential)?
Numbers: Are all of your statistics and calculations correct? Are your skill check DCs reasonable?
Style: Did you watch Paizo’s styles, both in terms of writing and formatting? The more closely a writer can match Paizo’s styles in the turnover, the easier it is for me to develop. The easier it is for me to develop, the more eagerly I assign that author more work.

Setting
All right, a gnome from Jalmeray (one of my favorite regions) builds a mansion in Katapesh (one of my other favorite regions). This is off to a great—albeit biased—start! Solku has a lot going on, and I can tell from some of your design choices that you did your background reading.

I like the incorporation of a plot hook, but it wasn’t clear to me what had happened to our gnome until the final encounter. As a GM, I appreciate having a brief overview of the events that happened thus far (even if it’s just a sentence) toward the beginning of the adventure.

NPCs and Creatures
Wow! This is a busy location with three possible combats and a trap all in under 1,500 words! I’m nervous about this because each additional encounter means less text for each individual encounter.

We have an abused Huldra who takes over a small pack of gnolls and a jackalwere, sneaks everyone into the city, kills an arcane architect, and uses his library to research magic to carry out her vendetta against Solku. I’m a little confused as to why she hates Solku rather than pirates, but I can roll with it. I would like to know why she went after Ignus instead of someone else. Did she learn that he had something special? Was he an easy target? Why kill a gnome, who is one of the more likely creatures to sympathize with the huldra’s cause?

A jackalwere could infiltrate Solku without too much trouble, but I’m confused about how the gnolls got in here. Aren’t they kill-on-sight following the Battle of Red Hail that chased the gnolls out of the area?

I recommend not having a trap in a crowded, semi-public are trigger whenever someone tries to open the door, as that could lead to a very dead guest.

Why is this nightflower CN and not CE? Furthermore, if Ignus is an architect, I am somewhat put-off that his mansion’s guardian is botanical rather than architectural. I appreciate the possibility to resolve the nightflower encounter through diplomacy, but it seems that this presentation is downplaying the nightflower’s natural tendencies (seduce victims, drink blood, repeat) too much. If the PCs can overcome the nightflower nonviolently (which tends to be faster in terms of gameplay), I would appreciate the creature playing a continued role in the encounter area. Perhaps it follows the PCs around, helps them in a future encounter, or otherwise has more exposure. In your turnover, the huldra is really the main course, and the nightflower is an appetizer.

Numbers
Encounter A1 says that it’s CR 4, but the only creature is CR 3. Is there something I’m missing?

Four CR 1 gnolls equals a CR 5 encounter. Add in a CR 3 advanced jackalwere, and you’re up to a CR 6; however, your header for area B3 says that it’s CR 3.

Style
Avoid the use of future tense, except in dialogue or in exceptional circumstances in which the outcome really is 100% guaranteed. Where you are using future tense, Paizo typically uses present tense, sometimes with the subjunctive or conditional mood. Also, police your use of passive voice (e.g. ““A hidden key can be found…”). Passive voice has its uses, but active voice is strongly preferred in all other circumstances.

Here are a few quick formatting standards to keep in mind:

  • Use hyphens when making a complex adjective (e.g. “5-foot-wide alley”)
  • Use the Special Abilities header in your dire dhabba’s entry. Bold rather than italicize the poison, and make sure it has an (Ex) designation.
  • Italicize the names of book references.

    Closing Thoughts
    My impression is that 3+ encounters was too much to fit into this word count; I would try to budget 750–1,000 words per encounter, including background and area description. Unfortunately, the encounter that makes the most sense to cut is the nightflower, which would break one of the primary design criteria. Give me some more detail about the hows and whys of your creatures, such as how the gnolls got into Solku and why the huldra chose to break into this particular home.

    I do not recommend this encounter for advancement.


  • It seems like the nightflower in the back garden is an afterthought, but the front door is locked with a DC 40 lock. Given that this looks like it's written for APL 3, most/all parties will be forced around to the garden. The DC for Aldira the nightflower isn't listed, but the diplomacy DC* looks to be between 33 and 38 [20(unfriendly)+3(CHA mod)+10(revealing secrets) or +15(aid that could result in punishment)], giving the party a pretty legitimate chance to encounter the nightflower's seductive, blood drinking tendencies.

    A failed diplomacy check most likely results in combat if the PCs want in the house. The effects of the Pesh cloud make the PCs more susceptible to the nightflower's SLAs. The garden, which seems like an understated encounter, has a lot going on; it rewards high diplomacy and luck while having the environment adversely affect players should they fail to make Aldira friendly.

    *Unfortunately, the intimidate DC is only 15; still, a party could fail that.

    RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka theheadkase

    Ok mansion crawl. Classic. Not necessarily bad...or good.

    So your last line of lead-in tells me that the mansion is boring unless specified. Could probably cut that line.

    Nightflower. Good way to bring it into an urban setting. Although she's been relegated to an NPC.

    I'm not picking up any hints yet on what has happened as a PC. The jackalwere and gnolls serve a purpose I'm guessing but there's not much to go on.

    I would like the information about what happened to Ignus near the top so the GM has a quick place to look.

    Where does Stingtail come in? You have the block listed but he is not listed anywhere else in the descriptions.

    Overall, you've got some confusing things going on and a somewhat bland murder investigation. Organization is a little weak and some things are outright missing. I get the sense that you rushed this or left some stuff out because you couldn't make a choice in which encounter to focus on. I can't vote for this as is.


    The head kase, it's with the adversary in the basement. That was clear on my read over, at least.

    RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka theheadkase

    Aha! I see it now...but it still isn't clear that Stingtail is right next to her. It doesn't even mention "her faithful pet" in tactics. I would imagine that Jaena should be giving some orders or something to the creature in her tactics.


    It's in the "creature" section of that room. I assumed it worked, but maybe it was just my read.

    Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

    I like the swing for the fences that you went for here, with lots of little fights comprising the whole encounter you put forth.

    That said, I'd almost put money down that you had a lot of this written ahead of time, and just rewrote one section to include the nightflower.

    It's kinda nice that you have options other than fighting it, but it turns the creature you should have built the encounter around into someone the PCs may not even encounter, and certainly not the star.

    I'd also have liked more of the creatures motives to be front-loaded. GM reads the summary, and knows what's going on so he doesn't get confused or surprised if he forgets to read one particular room.

    RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka GM_Solspiral

    The Good: I love the intro, map works for me, and you made some great monster choices here.
    The Bad: Lots of small execution flaws (like not mentioning the downgrade in equip)that shouldn't be around at this level.
    The Ugly: The killer is that the rules say do not let other monsters eclipse the r2 monster. If you dropped the nightflower and added a chimney troll you might have gotten away with the choices made, as it is this doesn't quite meet the criteria in my eyes.
    Overall: 7/10 Good but not great, unfortunately with 75% getting cut I do not see this making it.

    Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

    Well done Tyler,
    Is the encounter fun? The actual encounter, nope. It is a diplomacy check to get into the actual encounter (gnolls and Jaena).
    Is the encounter difficult to interpret? Pretty well laid out, with motivations and moral for your villains. I did struggle with the big black line around the manor. I interpreted it as a wall, but by the description it might be the alley. If so is there a wall around the manor? if not why have gates?
    Does the monster fit? Yes, but I think it is superfluous to the bulk of what is written. Since that is the requirement of the round it may count against you, but as a whole what is here is good.
    This way to Dragathoa (I like to see beyond the encounter :) That you did do, & the hook of the gnolls & Jaena seems to me a bigger picture. One I could take my PCs through :)

    Good luck!

    Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

    First Impression: The name isn't terribly inspiring, but the map looks promising. So, the owner is missing and the PCs are hired to find him. The background text doesn't tell the GM what happened, or set up the encounter in any appreciable way. That's a turn-off as a GM.
    Upon Reflection: The Round 2 monster seems an afterthought; the real foes are a huldra, her jackalwere lieutenant, and some gnoll thugs. I'm a little confused about their motivations. I don't like the position of a deadly trap of the main entertaining area of the house: a wayward guest could easily trigger it. Each of the four detailed encounters aren't bad, but there isn't enough word count to really flesh them out. If this gnome is supposed to be a master of architecture and magical construction, there isn't anything special about the house itself. I would expect something interesting about the location. As it stands, the garden is the most interesting place, but he's supposed to be a builder.
    Overall: The big miss from the Round 3 perspective is that you let the R2 monster get outshined by the other monsters. I'm not big on PFRPG numbers, but I could tell off the bat that you miscalculated the CR of the encounters by a lot. I think you would have done better if you had used your wordcount to drop at least two of the encounters and do a better job of fleshing out the location and give more detail to the remaining encounter(s). This one just isn't doing much for me. C-

    Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka burrahobbit

    Hi Tyler! I'm a big fan of the concept of a bizarre mansion of an eccentric wizard with strange architectural flourishes and a monstrous botanical garden. And I think that's the aspect that could have been played up more here, especially given the R2 monster you used. The nightflower could have been foregrounded by making the garden itself the centerpiece of the encounter(s); as it is, both the strongest part of your concept (the garden), and your spotlight monster (the nightflower) feel peripheral. That said, it's clear that you've got some really interesting ideas here that could really shine given the right focus. Good luck!


    I was told to check out this contest because I love fantasy, not because I am a hardcore DnD player. So, coming at this from a purely literary perspective, a guy who builds his dream house out of magic (and presumably does a better job than the Weasely's) deserves a bloody brilliant dream house. And while you have given that to him, personally feel that it needs to be written in a way that has me dreaming of that house tonight. I think that a bit more craft in the writing would have gone along way on an entry that really piqued my interest. I would also would have liked to have seen the garden, instead of being told what it looked like. Instead of saying, there were bright flowers and green shrubs, says flowers exploded with colour out of the verdant shrubbery, ect. Don't just tell us what it looked like, show us. You clearly have a beautiful imagination and I would have liked to have seen what you saw.

    But truly, the one thing that I cannot get past is the bathroom. Did our dastardly villains break in, kill the owner, and then decided to take a bubble bath? Have our PC's walked in on a Jackelwere with the kit off? Why is the bathtub not only full, but steaming, implying that he just filled it to, what? Soak out the stresses of murder and pillage? I mean this in all good humour, but I am curious about why a villain would do something like this.

    I love the dream house idea, and I think that it would be a cool place to explore.

    Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka JoelF847

    There's lots of details and backstory that never ties into the encounter. Does it matter that the gnome is from Jalmeray? There's nothing in the mansion that particularly sounds like it couldn't be built from a life long citizen of Solku (or just about any other city really).

    Does Malazar's specialty in magical building techniques matter? Nothing about the mansion seems exotic, nor is there reference to anything in the library that relates to magical building, or why the huldra would care about that. This could just as easily be the mansion of any wizard, or rich noble, alchemist, etc.

    On top of these, you broke the main thrust of the round, of using a R2 monster as the focus of the encounter. Furthermore, you might as well have had the nightflower be just about any monster, since it's acting so completely out of character for the nightflower's typical MO. Also, if you're going to use a template version, you need to include the adjusted statblock, unless it's a simple template such as advanced.

    Even if you ignore the R2 dodge, there's not a lot compelling about the true adversaries. Their motives and future plans are thin, and their combats are basically in plain rooms, making the entire encounter fairly unmemorable.

    Silver Crusade RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 7

    Alrighty, now that the voting has ended, I wanted to thank you all for your feedback and for voting. Based on the feedback by the judges and voters, I doubt I'll be one of the top four, but I'm still very proud to have made it this far.

    About Malazar's Mansion:

    -I think the take-home message for me here is "don't overdo it". I was really trying to make my "encounter" into more than just a single fight, but obviously that's not really what people wanted to see. I spread my 1500 words too thin across too many different things, and that really hurt my overall submission.

    To specifically address a few of the judges' critiques:

    -I never meant for the players to be able to bypass the nightflower, and in fact that's why I made the lock on the front door nigh-impossible for a 3rd-level party to beat. Even a knock spell with a perfect roll of 20 on the caster level check wouldn't beat the required DC 40 at that level.

    -I obviously should have found a way to include the nightflower in the later encounters. I could have had her come along as an NPC helper, but I really wasn't trying to dictate her actions that strongly.

    -The CR for the encounter in A1 is 1 higher because of the pesh hazard mentioned in the area, which would make saves against the nightflower's mind-affecting effects more difficult for affected characters.

    -I decided to change the nightflower's alignment to CN instead of CG to signify her being friendly with a Good-aligned wizard. That was purely flavorful.

    -The big bookcase in front of the tunnel in the basement was meant to represent a bookcase that had been pushed over (not as obvious as I thought it was, it would seem) to expose the hole behind it. That hole is how the huldra, jackalwere and gnolls entered the house. I do mention in the description that the hole is visible to the PCs when they enter the basement.

    -The trap on the door to the basement was meant to have been activated by the huldra, not a general hazard to guests in Malazar's home.

    -The CR on the bathing suite was miscalculated, as I couldn't imagine that four CR 1 gnolls could add up to a CR 5 encounter. Originally there were only two gnolls and the jackalwere, but that felt too weak. I did intend to have the CR be 1 less than normal because the PCs would invariably get a surprise round against the occupants of the bath (as was said in the GM's description of the room) but I should have had a note in there saying so. In fact, the note was in there and then I removed it to save those few words in my word count.

    -I would have loved to include full stats on the dire dhabba, but obviously didn't have the word count to do so. Instead, I statted it up as a variant dire hyena, which I had hoped would be a clever way to include a monster that doesn't necessarily already exist but is iconic to the region.

    In response to the other posters:

    @RonarsCorruption: I did not in fact have this written ahead of time and adapt it, this encounter was written in full specifically for this contest. I think the problem is I just tried to do too much, make my location too interesting by having multiple battles.

    @Curaigh: See above about the Diplomacy check. It's very high, and it would be more likely that you'd end up fighting the nightflower than convincing her that you should go on by. The big black line around the mansion is supposed to signify the other buildings that it's sitting between and backed up to (the garden and the alleyways are created by these spaces).

    @MyAvatarLooksSoFreakedOut: I agree that i would have liked to spend more of my word count on making the mansion feel epic, and I should have dropped an encounter at least to do so. The bubble-bathing jackalwere is supposed to be the huldra's lieutenant who got bored guarding the house from intruders and decided to make use of its luxurious trappings... I probably could have dropped that encounter entirely, though.

    @Joel: I definitely didn't try to break the main idea of the round, as I see the nightflower as just as challenging of an encounter as the huldra, so she shouldn't have been outshined. That being said, I see now that I could have focused more on her. As far as the template version goes, I was under the impression from the rules that we were NOT allowed to include a fully-stat-blocked creature, which is why I did the template this way. Here's a bit of text from the rules supporting this:

    rules:
    "Do not use customized monsters or hazards that do not already have a stat block from a Paizo source if the effects of the variation cannot be summed up by adding one line to the stat block (such as a half-fiend troll, a goblin rogue 5, or an advanced spectre)--normally you would include a complete stat block for such a monster, and you won't have room to do so within the 1,500 word limit for your entry."

    That being said, I noticed there was at least one person who used a full stat block in their encounter and got rave reviews from the judges, so now I wish I had done so. I could have just used the advanced simple template, but making her into an actual plant creature appealed to me from a story level.
    I'd like to mention that of all the negative critiques on the thread, yours hit me the hardest. I was trying my best NOT to make combats happen "in plain rooms" and when I read that it was the only time that I let anyone's critique get through my skin a bit. I am not a cartographer by any stretch of the imagination (in fact, that map was the most artistic thing I've ever created with my own two hands) and I was truly proud of it.

    [/End longwinded responses]
    Phew! Alright, thank you all for your input on my encounter, and I definitely plan to enter again next year and show that I can grow in my writing abilities!

    Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka JoelF847

    Tyler Beck wrote:

    @Joel: I definitely didn't try to break the main idea of the round, as I see the nightflower as just as challenging of an encounter as the huldra, so she shouldn't have been outshined. That being said, I see now that I could have focused more on her. As far as the template version goes, I was under the impression from the rules that we were NOT allowed to include a fully-stat-blocked creature, which is why I did the template this way. Here's a bit of text from the rules supporting this:

    That being said, I noticed there was at least one person who used a full stat block in their encounter and got rave reviews from the judges, so now I wish I had done so. I could have just used the advanced simple template, but making her into an actual plant creature appealed to me from a story level.
    I'd like to mention that of all the negative critiques on the thread, yours hit me the hardest. I was trying my best NOT to make combats happen "in plain rooms" and when I read that it was the only time that I let anyone's critique get through my skin a bit. I am not a cartographer by any stretch of the imagination (in fact, that map was the most artistic thing I've ever created with my own two hands) and I was truly proud of it.

    Tyler, sorry that I scored a critical with my criticism, since I know how tough RPG Superstar is. As for the stat block, I skimmed the round 3 rules and thought they meant only use a simple template, but the example of half-fiend shows I was wrong there. I do think that when using a less well known template like fungal (which only made the Bestiary 4 a few months back) it would have been useful to voters to list the changes at least to the base stat block.

    As for the bit about "in plain rooms" it would have been more clear if I had said "plain combats" since the rooms aren't your basic rectangles, with the pool and bookshelves. I do think they were pretty much "enter the room and fight the monsters" since there was no special tactics that used the terrain (such as trying to drown a PC in the pool or pushing a bookshelf on someone), nor were there unusual hazards or combinations of traps and monsters, etc.

    I certainly wasn't trying to impinge your cartography, since I can barely draw a straight line on graph paper, I thought the map was fine, just wanted to be more wowed by the encounters.

    As for the nightflower being eclipsed by the huldra, the nightflower reads like an incidental encounter as the door guard, while the huldra is the actual villain. The nightflower also has a paragraph about how she can be convinced with Diplomacy, but nothing about her tactics in a fight (and I wasn't clear that she actually was supposed to fight the PCs). She only starts out as unfriendly, and generally I don't assume unfriendly NPCs attack unless provoked. The encounter with her reads to me as more of a case of "the PCs can get some backstory and a bit of help if they talk up the NPC".

    Silver Crusade RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 7

    Joel Flank wrote:
    Tyler Beck wrote:

    @Joel: I definitely didn't try to break the main idea of the round, as I see the nightflower as just as challenging of an encounter as the huldra, so she shouldn't have been outshined. That being said, I see now that I could have focused more on her. As far as the template version goes, I was under the impression from the rules that we were NOT allowed to include a fully-stat-blocked creature, which is why I did the template this way. Here's a bit of text from the rules supporting this:

    That being said, I noticed there was at least one person who used a full stat block in their encounter and got rave reviews from the judges, so now I wish I had done so. I could have just used the advanced simple template, but making her into an actual plant creature appealed to me from a story level.
    I'd like to mention that of all the negative critiques on the thread, yours hit me the hardest. I was trying my best NOT to make combats happen "in plain rooms" and when I read that it was the only time that I let anyone's critique get through my skin a bit. I am not a cartographer by any stretch of the imagination (in fact, that map was the most artistic thing I've ever created with my own two hands) and I was truly proud of it.

    Tyler, sorry that I scored a critical with my criticism, since I know how tough RPG Superstar is. As for the stat block, I skimmed the round 3 rules and thought they meant only use a simple template, but the example of half-fiend shows I was wrong there. I do think that when using a less well known template like fungal (which only made the Bestiary 4 a few months back) it would have been useful to voters to list the changes at least to the base stat block.

    As for the bit about "in plain rooms" it would have been more clear if I had said "plain combats" since the rooms aren't your basic rectangles, with the pool and bookshelves. I do think they were pretty much "enter the room and fight the monsters" since there was no special tactics that used the terrain...

    Thanks Joel. You're right about the fungal template, that was a last-minute decision for flavor's sake but I probably should have just gone Advanced instead.

    I appreciate your backpedaling on the "plain rooms" remark... that one was tough to swallow. You're of course right that I could have given more tactics and such for the fights, but of course I was up against the word limit. All of this just solidifies that I should have had at least one (possibly two) fewer combats and just stuck with the nightflower.

    There's always next year!

    RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka GM_Solspiral

    This entry got hurt by the rules changes this year. I'm noticing things I like in a 2nd read thru I just plain didn't have time for my first read. I might bump this to a 8/10. I actually like the use of the fungal template and the ironmorph dust. A couple small touches like making the axe a mw or +1 axe would help as would swapping out a villain for the nightflower. It still isn't the star of the show, though this is a fairly good stand alone encounter and location. I'd put this in the top 8 but not quite the top 4.

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